Cricket: Northants on the up: John Collis reports from Luton

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Northamptonshire 382; Somerset 161 and 216. Northants win by innings and 5 runs

THESE clubs, neither of whom have won the County Championship, started the season optimistically. For Northants, Alan Fordham and Nigel Felton are as effective an opening pair as any in the country. Add to them the steepling Curtly Ambrose and you have a generous seasoning of international players. After an occasionally prima donna past, the club is beginning to add up to the sum of its parts and they have built on 1992's NatWest Trophy by climbing to third place in the Championship.

Somerset have Mark Lathwell heading a useful batting order, though he treated the attractive park ground at Luton to just one scoring stroke in two attempts on Friday. With Andrew Caddick, Neil Mallender, Adrianus van Troost and Mushtaq Ahmed, they have greater potential for bowling sides out than ever before.

But after winning here Northants are in the ascendant and their points from this match take them past a faltering Somerset. The visitors cannot point accusingly at Luton's part-time wicket, since Allan Lamb bludgeoned 172 and Kevin Curran 91 from an attack missing only Van Troost from its front line. Somerset had opted instead for Harvey Trump's off- breaks in support of Mushtaq, but their combined spinning analysis was 0 for 143.

Instead, Northants' deep seam attack exploited a lively but fair wicket to back up their batting. Somerset will recall that on Thursday morning they had Northants at 37 for 3, the last time they were in charge of a game whose formalities were completed by lunchtime yesterday. Mallender's defiant onslaught at the expense of leg-spinner Andy Roberts provided some compensatory entertainment.